Zumwalt Poems Online

The Sassoon Collection

i. Everyone sang while I fell asleep

voices wailing around the house
thud of feet and slam of doors
everyone singing
only the clocks wind down

around this small room
no sense of the hour
crowded with lemonade breath
high-pitched voices like hounds in pain
as clouds hover over my eyes

fighting sleep with the fork from my dessert plate
not yet ready to go where the dreams are built
where you take reality with you so as not to be alone
dragging it by its rough cotton shirt collar

the sweet faces become sweet voices
despite the liberty with so many of the notes
the lights descend and take colors
whirling into a vortex that kicks out dimensions
like KTEL reissuing fragments from the past

falling asleep
the hounds now cooing like herons drugged by too many Hershey bars
the darkness becoming home (but without any furnishings)
everything fading into peace
except for one small lingering concern
for everything unfinished

— Zumwalt (1998)


Comments on: "The Sassoon Collection: i. Everyone sang while I fell asleep" (12)

  1. This is brilliant! Thank you for sharing :-]


  2. Wonderful poem! That falling, falling, into sleep… resisting at first, but finally giving way – except for “one small lingering concern for everything unfinished”. (I can relate to that!!!) Nicely done!


  3. Sounds a little like Tim Allan’s new sitcom,( what ever it’s called ) trying to ride the shirt tales of tool time…just ain’t the same without Al Boreland …compared to the rest of your stuff…But, then… who’s counting? Great delivery!!!


  4. But, then what can one expect from a genius as you…Hell, you were, in fact, falling asleep..
    Great delivery…


  5. KTEL – I’m trying to remember those old commercials on 70’s tv for pocket fisherman and slicer-dicers and chop-o-matic this and dice-o-matic that…… And was it Mr. Microphone…? “Stay right there baby I’ll be back to pick you up later……” OMG…… amazingly astute reference and definitely within the scope of kicking different dimensions about..

    I don’t know a lot about Sigfried other than what I just learned a few moments ago. As a soldier in the Great War he spent many years writing about those experiences but eventually came to peace with the atrocities he found there and spent his remaining years on less volatile subjects. Apparently many critics feel his later poetry lacked the fervor and emotion of his war poems. I don’t know. I sampled both and found well metered poetry in all cases. I’m not certain that he didn’t simply exchange atrocity for humor. “Prelude to an Unwritten Masterpiece” is an incredibly descripted dream-like trance whose last lines left me with a smile. (Quite reminiscent of what you have done here.) Interesting that he prophesied there that some would say his work waned over the years. Some of his work would have left me clueless of his clerical background but some of it was obvious, especially his letter of open defiance of the war’s political machinery. I was surprised though that he specifically mentioned that he wasn’t complaining about the acts or mechanics of the war itself. The mustard and other nerve gasses used in that war, the trench diseases, simply “going over the top” to face sheets of molten lead and certain casualty, machine guns were introduced that could mow down entire strings of men, aerial observation and bombing was being pioneered, and tanks entered the battlefield. Rudimentary as it seems to us today, it was cutting edge at the time and had to be sheer hell for the men who lived through that, and those who didn’t. I can’t imagine anything more atrocious. So I think the intent of his letter was to attack the political processes fueling the war. Which is very strongly indicative of a Jewish cleric, IMHO. I think Sassoon is an excellent poet and an outspoken humanitarian. And a great study. Thanks for pointing us to him……..


  6. Sassoon aside I was greatly struck by your poem , what else could I expect of you in the short time I have been reading your poetry you have never ceased to amazing and inform me! That said , even being English I remember and understand the KTel reference. Thank you for the amazing poem and thank you for bringing Sassoon to a wider public if only one of your readers, i.e. the the chap above you have excelled!! be well be happy xxx


  7. this is awesome walt – so many great lines

    the darkness becoming home (but without any furnishings) love how you make something abstract – the darkness – so very real and accessible with adding the furnishing part
    then the ..crowded with lemonade breath… and …fighting sleep with the fork from my dessert plate…. so creative and so “normal” that we all can identify – and that makes it genius in my eyes


  8. redplace, Betty, mymatejoechip, sonsothunder, willowdot21, claudia and johnallenrichter thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I know Zumwalt does visit and read these comments.


    Thanks for doing work I guess I should be doing as the site admin, by giving us all a brief overview of Sassoon. Both “Prelude to an Unwritten Masterpiece” and “Falling Asleep” are from the 1920 “Picture-Show.” As you point out, Sassoon had a great command of meter and often rhymed. Take a look at his handling of iambic pentameter in “Memory” (http://www.bartleby.com/137/10.html) starting with the fourth line with the strong accent required by Wind against the underlying pattern.


    It’s very possible that the furnishing reference is not only to emphasize what “asleep” means but to say more perhaps than that — from Emily Dickenson:

    “Who has not found the heaven below
    Will fail of it above.
    God’s residence is next to mine,
    His furniture is love.”


    For me, personally, I am not so crazy about these poems in the Sassoon collection (several more are currently auto-scheduled for posting) and so I think I am in agreement with you. However, I often find that those Zumwalt poems that are lesser ones in my mind, get the most positive response, and those that seem to me better crafted, get less attention. I guess the following Zumwalt quote has some applicability:

    “We see such beauty in the country and usually leave it at that. We don’t examine the bark of trees, looking for flaws. We don’t see which flower is lacking in this manner or that. We don’t criticize a particular bird’s song thinking its solo should be a few more notes or a few less. Why this frame of mind? Are all products of nature perfect? Not so. But we are wise enough to enjoy what we can in the time we have.” (Excerpted from a GHLM non-published interview.)

    Sometimes we miss opportunity when we don’t accept a poem on its own terms and look to evaluate its merit. For some of us, poetry appreciation is about being able to rate and evaluate the worth of a poem. I know I tend to do that a lot. I think, though, that is sort of an anti-Zumwalt approach towards poetry.


  9. Your word play makes my heart sing. I once read that anything we did not finish at the end of the day is “God’s work.” Our “to do” list is usually unrealistic. Hugs, pat


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